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Container ship MOL Comfort disaster, Arabian Sea

 
Disasters 2013  |  Disasters 2012Ru | En
Voytenko Mikhail

Container ship MOL Comfort (ex APL Russia), IMO 9358761, dwt 90613, capacity 8100 TEU, built 2008, flag Bahamas, owner Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd.


July 11
MOL Comfort fore section sank

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines issued urgent press-release informing that the fore section of MOL Comfort in position 19 56N 065 25E, at 19:00 UTC on July 10 13, after complete burn out.
Maritime Bulletin:
There is almost no doubt, that there were many containers in fore section of MOL Comfort, loaded with inflammable and explosive cargoes, or else the section wouldnt get ablaze and completely burn out so soon, making all the firefighting attempts just futile. Oman probably, wouldnt let the remnants of the section enter its waters, because who knows, how dangerous the wreck was. Remember MSC Flaminia several months after fire and complete clean up in Germany, Romania held the vessel on the road for quite some time, fearing toxic pollution.
A sad story.

July 10
MOL Comfort fire update. What caused MOL Comfort disaster?



July 10: Mitsui O.S.K. Lines issued press-release informing that fire is still raging, most of the containers on the deck were destroyed, according to visual observance. Checking the condition of the containers in the hold appears to be impossible. MOL and Indian Coast Guard, whose ship Samudra Prahari continues fire fighting, blame the adverse weather, hampering salvage efforts. According to ICG information as cited by Indian media, some 90% of all the containers on board of the fore section have been already destroyed. One should be careful with the info provided by ICG, but this time it seems to be true.

Nobody knows, including MOL, what exactly what was loaded into quite a number of containers stack on board of the fore section on board of any ocean-going container ship. Its a well-known fact, that in order to save on freight, shippers often declare dangerous goods as some harmless items. MOL Comfort could carry materials compared in effect to weapons of mass destruction, if leaked or inflamed or mixed with sea water. Burned out or still burning, MOL Comfort remnants may pose a grave threat to a coast or a port its been towed to. Thats what makes the container ship on fire so frustratingly dangerous in case of major fire lack of knowledge of the character of quite a number of cargoes on board.
If my calculations regarding fore position and movements are correct, then, the salvage team, which includes three tugs and ICG ship Samudra Prahari, is sweating itself off trying to tow the fore section further to the sea.

I cant but pity vessel itself and MOL Company, with such an awful piece of bad luck. First, broking in two, and second, catching up with major fire. All the faults of present day major container ships mixed up together and destroyed a fine modern vessel with goods on board worth hundreds of millions dollars.

There is a high probability of some initial, basic flaw in design of modern big container ships, making them vulnerable to wrongly calculated weight distribution due to wrongly declared weights. If structural strength was strong enough to withstand misplaced weights along the hull, with sufficient safety margin, it wouldnt happen. Actually, modern container giants should be designed initially on an assumption, that there will be wrong weight distribution, its inevitable under the present system of declaring goods in containers and their loading. Obviously this is not the case, and the designers (and ship owners major carriers) are concerned with fuel efficiency (disguised by very convenient Green Planet frenzy) and operational cost per container much more, than theyre concerned with the safety, because under present system, providing sufficient safety will be devastatingly costly.
Designed and built as cost-effective and profit-efficient monstrous tools for major carriers fighting in a madly overheated market race for survival and top positions in the sector, those container giants are prone to major disasters, which may be triggered by a fire in one container (in one box among hundreds loaded into one container, actually) among thousands on board, or by sailing through heavy seas.

Voytenko Mikhail

July 09
MOL Comfort major fire. How trustworthy is Indian Coast Guard?

July 9: Mitsui O.S.K. Lines in latest press-release issued on July 9 said that  ..due to adverse weather, the work has not been progressing smoothly and the fire is not yet under control. Observations show that many containers on the deck have been burnt out, notwithstanding ICG Samudra Prahari with its powerful firefighting equipment. As it can be seen on the photo, fire is already what is called major fire, situation seems to be critical. ICG ship Samudra Prahari is not of much help.
Its important to note, that yesterday July 8 Indian media, starting from NDTV, said citing Indian Coat Guard, that the fire on MOL Comfort fore section was put under control by Indian Coast Guard. Its definitely not the case, fire engulfed nearly all of fore section, far cry from being under control. This is the third time Indian media published to put it mild, not exactly correct information with regards to MOL Comfort disaster. First one was published on the first day of the disaster, when Indian media reported MOL Comfort broke in two and sank. Second and third were published yesterday, when media said that ICG put fire under control, adding in a brief history of the disaster, that The Indian Coast Guard, Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, Mumbai and other international agencies rescued the 26 crew members-12 Russians and 14 Filipinos-who abandoned the vessel and boarded two life rafts one lifeboat. Crew actually, was rescued by nearby vessels, namely by nearest vessel, container ship Yantian Express. Operation was coordinated by MRCC Mumbai and by ICG thats what was said immediately after disaster and rescue operation. Now, 3 weeks after the events, operation transformed into ICG success. In all those, not exactly correct, stories, Indian media is citing Indian Coast Guard, which leads us to questioning Indian Coast Guard, so to say, seaworthiness.
Meanwhile, ICG website http://indiancoastguard.nic.in/ misses MOL Comfort accident totally no mentioning of the disaster, no updates on salvage operation and fire, no photos, no videos nothing. Maybe this accident is something of very little importance? Nevertheless, photos and videos sourced to Indian Coast Guard appear in the internet, not on Indian media websites, though, but on a foreign private website. Free of charge, or somebodys initiative? Instead of being provided with professional first-hand information, we have to look at the photos and speculate on the situation and condition of vessel in distress.
Along with duties of rescue and salvage, there is another duty any Coast Guard should do inform the public, timely and fully, on all the accidents, especially those which may affect environment, coastal population and shippers. Not much can be said yet about salvage mission success, but information mission is a total failure. As a Russian, I can only add, that in Russia, in this respect, things arent much better, its absolutely the same story.
Voytenko Mikhail

July 08
MOL Comfort fire update. Samudra Prahari didnt fail, fire is under control.

Indian NDTV reported that the fire on MOL Comfort fore section was put under control by Indian Coast Guard, which means that ICG ship Samudra Prahari was able to successfully fight the fire with its powerful foam cannons. NDTV said the towage will soon resume.

July 08
MOL Comfort fire update. Samudra Prahari the only hope for now.

July 8: Indian Coast Guard ship Samudra Prahari arrived on the scene at around 00:30 UTC July 8 13, informed MOL in latest press-release. Three salvage vessels engaged in towage cant put fire under control with their fire fighting equipment.
Maritime Bulletin: Much hope lay with powerful Samudra Prahari fire fighting system and its capacity to fight fire staying far enough from the fore section to avoid allision due to reportedly, heavy seas, and to avoid possible explosions and noxious fumes outbreaks. Risks of explosions and toxic wastes, judging from cases of major fires on board of boxships, represent one of the main obstacles in boxships firefighting. Plus the unreliable information on the cargo in containers with present system of declaring the goods and container loading, one cant be sure if the container next to the one on fire wouldnt suddenly explode or blow out some nasty substance of unknown nature, killing any living thing it touches.

July 07
MOL Comfort fire update. Whats hampering firefighting, weather or character of cargoes?

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines issued press-release informing that attempts to put the fire under control failed due to adverse weather. Fire in the fore section started at around 00:30 LY July 6. There is hope three salvage vessels engaged in towage and fire fighting will be effectively assisted by Indian Coast Guard ship Samudra Prahari, which is equipped with powerful firefighting cannons.
Maritime Bulletin: weather doesnt look all that adverse, so most probably fire fighting is hampered by the noxious character of substances which are on fire. There may be fears of explosions, too. Major fire on container ships bears a threat of disastrous explosions and toxic leaks, it should be accepted already as a fact of life, though of course, major liner carriers wont recognized it in public.

July 07
MOL Comfort fire update

July 7 02:00 UTC: Indian media gave more details on MOL Comfort fire, including photo, provided by Indian Coast Guard ICG. Fire was spotted by ICG patrol plane at around 11:00 July 6 during a routine patrol flight, fore section was at the time some 310 nautical miles off Mumbai. ICG dispatched its ship Samudra Prahari to monitor situation and render assistance. Photo of the fire published by Indian media provided by ICG.
Maritime Bulletin:
The scope of the fire most probably, depends on the cargo in containers stacked in the vicinity of container or containers on fire. If there are many inflammable or explosive cargoes nearby, then the fire may develop into major one. Initial fire could be ignited either by chemical reaction when some inflammable goods mixed with sea water, or by sparkling some leaking inflammable substances.

July 06
MOL Comfort fore section fire, update July 6

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines issued press-release reporting fire in the rear part of fore section, which is kept under tow. Three salvage vessels engaged in towage started fire fighting.
Maritime Bulletin: in the morning July 5 fore section was near position 18 25N 67 55E.

July 06
Maritime Bulletin:
According to Satellite AIS data, in the evening of July 4 fore section was in position 18 11N 68 12E.
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines issued a press-release informing that the section is stable, being towed in WNW direction.

July 05
Maritime Bulletin:
No daily press-release from MOL on July 4. According to Satellite AIS data, at 13:45 LT July 3 fore section was in position 17 43N 68 54E, presumably under tow.

July 03
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Press-release July 03

TOKYO- Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. updates the status of the containership MOL Comfort as of 23:00 JST (18:00 Dubai time) on July 02, 2013.
The fore part is drifting near position 17 14N 68 48E. The weather at the site is still adverse. Towline was re-connected, towage resumed.
Maritime Bulletin: fore section drifted some 50 nautical miles while the tow was broken, and was some 250 miles SW of Mumbai.

July 02
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Press-release July 02

TOKYO- Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. updates the status of the containership MOL Comfort as of 23:00 JST (18:00 Dubai time) on July 01, 2013.

The fore part is drifting near position 17 02N 67 57E. The weather at the site is still adverse. The tow wire was disconnected from the fore part which was being towed in a west-northwest direction. 3 tugs involved in salvage are trying to re-connect towline.
MOL completed monitoring operation in area where aft section sank. Neither oil leak or drifting containers were spotted.

July 01
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Press-release July 01

TOKYO- Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. updates the status of the containership MOL Comfort as of 23:00 JST (18:00 Dubai time) on June 30, 2013.
The fore part is under tow in 16 46N 067 55E. The weather at the site is still adverse. Patrol boats are monitoring the situation of oil leakage and floating containers in the area where the aft part sank.
Maritime Bulletin:
The fore part is under tow proceeding reportedly to Oman.

June 30
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Press-release June 30

TOKYO- Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. updates the status of the containership MOL Comfort as of 23:00 JST (18:00 Dubai time) on June 29, 2013.

The fore part is under tow in 16 36N 068 08E. The weather at the site is still adverse. Patrol boats are monitoring the situation of oil leakage and floating containers in the area where the aft part sank.
Maritime Bulletin:
The fore part is under tow proceeding reportedly to Oman.

June 29
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Press-release June 29

TOKYO- Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. updates the status of the containership MOL Comfort as of 23:00 JST (18:00 Dubai time) on June 28, 2013.
The fore part is under tow in 16 22N 068 15E. The weather at the site is still adverse.
Maritime Bulletin:
The fore part is under tow proceeding reportedly to Oman.

June 28
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Press-release June 28

TOKYO- Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. updates the status of the containership MOL Comfort as of 23:00 JST (18:00 Dubai time) on June 27, 2013.
The fore part is under tow in 16 05N 068 34E. The weather at the site is still adverse.
Maritime Bulletin:
The fore part is under tow proceeding reportedly to Oman.

MOL Comfort aft section sank on June 27
TOKYO- Mitsui O.S.K. Lines reports the aft part of the containership MOL Comfort sank in the open sea near 14 26N 066 26E (water depth about 4,000m) at 16:48 JST (11:48 Dubai time) on June 27. About 1,700 containers aboard the aft part sank with this section of the vessel. Some are confirmed floating near the site. About 1,500 metric tons of fuel oil was estimated to be aboard in the tanks of the aft part. No large volume of oil leakage is confirmed at this moment.
As of 23:00 JST (18:00 Dubai time) on June 26, 2013, the fore section was in position 15 52N 068 53E.
Maritime Bulletin:
The fore section is or supposed to be, under tow, latest AIS of the tugs working on fore section show course almost due north, speed some 1.5 knots probably tugs are just keeping fore section at a most safe angle towards sea and wind.
Maritime Danmark published photos of the fore section towage, made by passing Danish tanker Torm Thyra (IMO 9250488), courtesy of tankers Captain Svend Degn. Full scale photos at http://www.maritimedanmark.dk/?Id=19458

June 26
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Press-release June 26

TOKYO- Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. updates the status of the containership MOL Comfort as of 23:00 JST (18:00 Dubai time) on June 25, 2013.
The fore and aft parts are drifting near 15 43N 069 07E and 14 03N 065 30E respectively in an east-northeast direction. The weather at the site is still adverse.
One patrol boat and three tugboats have arrived at the site on June 24. The four boats arrived at the site on June 24. We have started to tow the fore part toward Arabian Gulf. We will continue to monitor the aft part and prepare for the tow operation.
Maritime Bulletin:
The fore part is already under tow proceeding towards Indian coast, seemingly towards Mumbai.

June 25
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Press-release June 25

TOKYO- Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. updates the status of the containership MOL Comfort as of 23:00 JST (18:00 Dubai time) on June 24, 2013.
The fore and aft parts are drifting near 15 25N 067 53E and 13 48N 064 50E respectively in an east-northeast direction. The weather at the site is still adverse.
One patrol boat and three tugboats have arrived at the site on June 24. Total of five boats, including one more boat which is expected to arrive on June 26, will prepare for the rescue.

June 24
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Press-release June 24

TOKYO- Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. updates the status of the containership MOL Comfort as of 23:00 JST (18:00 Dubai time) on June 23, 2013. The fore and aft parts are drifting near 15 12N 066 53E and 13 38N 064 10E respectively in an east-northeast direction. The weather at the site is still adverse. The patrol boat which has departed Port of Jebel Ali, U.A.E. on June 19 is expected to arrive at the ocean site on around June 24.

June 23
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Press-release June 23

TOKYO- Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. updates the status of the containership MOL Comfort as of 23:00 JST (18:00 Dubai time) on June 22, 2013.
The fore and aft parts are drifting near 14 52N 065 46E and 13 29N 063 27E respectively in an east-northeast direction. The weather at the site is still adverse. The patrol boat which has departed Port of Jebel Ali, U.A.E. on June 19 is expected to arrive at the ocean site on around June 24.

June 22
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Press-release June 22

TOKYO- Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. updates the status of the containership MOL Comfort as of 23:00 JST (18:00 Dubai time) on June 21, 2013.
The fore and aft parts are drifting near 14 35N 064 50E and 13 22N 062 48E respectively in an east-northeast direction. The weather at the site is still adverse. The patrol boat which has departed Port of Jebel Ali, U.A.E. on June 19 is expected to arrive at the ocean site on around June 24.
Maritime Bulletin:
Drifting containers spotted in 12 54.5N 058 52.1E

June 21
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Press-release June 21

TOKYO- Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. updates the status of the containership MOL Comfort as of 23:00 JST (18:00 Dubai time) on June 20, 2013.
The fore and aft parts are drifting near 14 10N 63 27E and 13 13N 62 05E respectively in an east-northeast direction. The weather at the site is still adverse. The patrol boat which has departed Port of Jebel Ali, U.A.E. on June 19 is expected to arrive at the ocean site on around June 24.

June 20
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Press-release June 20

TOKYO-Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. updates the status of the containership MOL Comfort as of 23:00 JST (18:00 Dubai time) on June 19, 2013.
1.Vessel
The aft part is drifting near 13 00N 61 29E in an east-northeast direction. The status of the fore part is to be confirmed while the visibility is limited due to adverse weather.
2.Containers
Some of the containers might be lost or damaged during the incident, but majority of the cargo are confirmed to be aboard the aft part. The status of the fore part is to be confirmed.
3.Rescue of the cargo and hulls
We have contracted with a salvage company and are proceeding to rescue the cargo and hulls.
Maritime Bulletin:
Drift 20 nautical miles East in 13 hours period from 0100 to 1400UTC June 19.

June 19, 2013
MOL Press-release:

Incident Involving the Containership MOL Comfort
TOKYO-Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. (MOL; President: Koichi Muto) reports that the containership MOL Comfort could not continue sailing under its own power because the hull fractured in two parts while under way on the Indian Ocean. At about 10:00 JST (05:00 local time) on June 19, 2013, two parts, fore and aft, laden with containers are drifting at about 2 knots near 12 57N 61 10E (the aft) in an east-northeast direction.
Today, we arranged a patrol boat which has already departed from Port of Jebel Ali, U.A.E. to monitor the state of the vessel and the cargo and for the preparation of tow operations. The boat is expected to arrive at the ocean site on 23rd if it goes smoothly. In parallel, we are arranging tugboats to tow the MOL Comfort.

Satellite tracking of MOL Comfort aft section from FleetMon
In the map below, FleetMon shows the track and position of the MOL Comfort on its way from Singapore westwards, takingn route to Yemen coast and the Gulf of Aden. Apparently the incident took place on 2013-06-17 06:00 UTC and the vessel is drifting with AIS transponder still working. The track has been created using satellite AIS data kindly provided by our partner LuxSpace.
Detail view shows the vessel - to be more exact: the section bearing the AIS transponder - drifting away at about 2kn to 5kn in strong winds. Within 24 hours, the section drifted some 57 nm.
Latest position of the aft section dated 07:30 UTC June 18. Check for updates at https://www.fleetmon.com 
Sections are being monitored by the MOLs car carrier Sanderling Ace (IMO 9409481).

MOL Comfort halves still afloat?
June 18, 2013

MOL Comfort reportedly halves are still afloat, follow the updates published by it seems like, Indian Coast Guard officer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/nalam65
Twit published around 17:00 UTC June 17:
she is not yet sunk, the forward and aft portions are drifting 4NM away in 50 Kts winds. Meanwhile, MOL made a statement which by now is obviously outdated:
the MOL-operated containership MOL Comfort, while under way from Singapore to Jeddah on the Indian Ocean (12'30"N 60'E) at about noon JST (07:00 local time) on June 17, 2013 during inclement weather, suffered a crack amidships and ingressing water in the hold. This made it impossible for the vessel to continue on under its own power.
http://www.mol.co.jp/en/pr/2013/13032.html  Photos taken from https://twitter.com/nalam65 
Quite a mess, isnt it? The cyclone raging in Indian ocean is so strong that the storm reaches Gulf of Siam yesterday I visited my friend, Master of a container ship which called Laem Chabang, Thailand, and saw weather maps. For a second day there are strong wind and heavy seas in Gulf of Siam.
Voytenko Mikhail

MOL Comfort aftershock
June 18, 2013

MOL Comfort sank due to yet unclear causes, en route from Singapore to Jeddah and then to North Europe, leaving behind hundreds of drifting containers and a tremendous aftershock hitting liner sector and all of the maritime industry. Just the scale of the consequences is hard, even impossible, to estimate, not to mention consequences themselves. For all my knowledge, this is the first case in liner sector, when modern ocean-going liner container ship (built in Japan!) sank in the ocean after breaking in two, like a poorly built and managed bulk carrier or over aged coaster. Nothing like this ever happened, and nobody believed its possible, even theoretically. It just couldnt happen, but still, here it is.
At present stage, even the weirdest theories of the cause of the disaster cannot be ignored, something like explosion or several explosions, or whatever else one may fantasize. I for one, would exclude only one version MOL Comfort surely wasnt sunk by Somalia pirates.
Putting aside exotic versions, most probable causes which come into mind are some basic design and building faults; serious disbalance of the loaded containers weight due to false cargo weight declarations and faulty cargo plan; faulty ballasting of the vessel. Most probably, if thats the case, the sinking was caused not by just one of the abovementioned factors, but by their combination, and triggered by rough weather.
If it will be found, that there were several factors involved, then, the questions arise which require sound and unequivocal answers.
1. Are there some basic faults rooted deep inside ocean-going container ships design, construction and management, or was the disaster the result of a combination of negative factors.
2. If its a combination of negative factors, what is the probability of such a combination, is it negligibly small, or the odds of another accident are alarmingly high.
3. Whats the cost of lowering those odds, and how will it affect liner business and freight.
The questions of insurance and cargo loss coverage for shippers, especially minor ones, is very important, too.
Lets not forget another risk quite a number of experts are already worried over the risk of major fire on a giant ocean-going container ship.
One thing is clear, though. The liner sector, first of all majors, will do whatever it takes to hide unfavorable factors and especially, basic faults, if there are any. The awesome container transportation mechanism they created may not stand serious modifications, called by safety needs.
Voytenko Mikhail
June 18 13

Photo above taken from website BT http://www.bt.dk/udland/se-billederne-containerskib-braekkede-i-to-flyder-stadig

Indian Coast Guard confirmed the sinking of MOL Comfort
June 17, 2013

Indian Coast Guard confirmed the sinking of MOL Comfort. Vessel broke in two and sank some 840 nautical miles west of Mumbai, three vessels - MV Hanjin Beijing, MV Zim India and MV Yantian Express, took part in rescue operation. Weather in the area is rough, with sea up to 6 meters. Reportedly, there were some 4,500 containers on board, sea in the area is scattered with drifting containers. 26 crew consisted of 14 Filipino and 12 Russian seamen. m/v Yantian Express was actually the vessel which rescued the crew from two life rafts and a lifeboat.

MOL Comfort broke in two and sank in Arabian sea
June 17, 2013

Reportedly container ship MOL Comfort broke in two and sank in Arabian sea on June 17 13. 26 crew rescued safe and sound. Vessel was en route from Far East to Northern Europe. Vessel was engaged on North Europe Express 1 Service, Far East Northern Europe. Last known position from vesseltracker.com Satellite AIS see pic. A crack in a hull developed due to presumably, sailing in rough seas, with resulting water ingress in one of the holds in midsection area. Emergency was reported at around 0700 LT. 26 crew was rescued by nearby vessels. News are still confused, some sources say vessel sank, some say it may be still afloat, but most probably, vessel sank.